THE BIG PICTURE
It wasn’t pretty. Unnecessary timeouts, delay-of-game penalties, a bad punt late in the game, missed tackles and too many big plays allowed were all a part of a rocky opener. But the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and when he’s able to get some time to throw, he’s going to give you a chance to win. That’s what he did, completing 20 of 34 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. There were just enough big plays made elsewhere, including Davante Adams’ highlight touchdown catch and DamariousRandall’s outstanding tackle on Jacksonville’s final play to let the Packers escape with a 27-23 victory. That kind of performance probably won’t cut it in Minnesota next week.
Jacksonville had taken a 17-14 lead with just over a minute left in the first half when Rodgers took over at the Packers 25. Coach Mike McCarthy had deferred on the opening kickoff so the Packers had a chance to have back-to-back scoring chances if they could get on the board before intermission. Eventually, the Packers faced a third and 10 at the Jacksonville 29 with 20 seconds left. Rodgers took the snap and quickly had cornerback Jalen Ramsey bearing down on him on an unblocked blitz. Rodgers stepped up and with Ramsey holding onto his jersey flung the ball to the goal line where Adams made a highlight catch against former teammate Davon House. “The window was cracked just a little bit,” Adams said of the opening. The Packers took a 21-17 lead and never trailed again.
BOX SCORE: Packers 27, Jaguars 23
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles picked on just about everybody in the Packers secondary, but one guy he could not crack was Randall. The second-year starter was a rock in an otherwise shaky backfield. He didn’t give up a significant completion, broke up two passes, prevented a long kickoff return, nearly intercepted a pass along the sideline, saved a touchdown on tight end Marcedes Lewis’ 37-yard screen play and made the initial tackle on receiver Allen Hurns on the fourth-down stop that clinched the game for the Packers. He was probably the best defensive player on the field.
The Packers used Randall in the slot for much of camp, but inexplicably they went with Quinten Rollins there in the nickel package. It might have been because they wanted Randall on either Allen Robinson or Hurns, but it didn’t account for how tight ends Julius Thomas and Lewis were going to dominate. Rollins was no match for either player and struggled to cover receivers, too. On the Jaguars’ go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter, Rollins bit on an underneath route and let Hurns beat him for a 30-yard gain. Then two plays later, Thomas ran by him down the right sideline for a 22-yard touchdown. Rollins was pulled in the second half and in came LaDarius Gunter, who proceeded to give up a 38-yard completion to Hurns across the middle. Rollins came back to break up a deep ball in the end zone, but it was a rough day all around for the slot corners.
RANTS & RAVES
RAVE: Guard Lane Taylor did not play poorly in his first start in place of Josh Sitton. Taylor appeared to be pretty good in the run game even though the Packers only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. But the Packers knew he could run block. He was surprisingly solid in the passing game. He had his moments of allowing pressure, but there were no gaffes that led to Rodgers getting crushed. In fact, the only Rodgers sack came on a scramble in which he ran for no yards.
RAVE: Linebacker Joe Thomas was the lone inside linebacker in the dime defense and it was clear why he won that position. Thomas had a pair of tackles and an interception, but just as importantly provided some pressure on blitzes up the middle and made sure he was in the right place. He was there on the final defensive play, teaming with safety Morgan Burnett to finish off Hurns before he got the first down. “Everybody was pursuing the ball today,” Thomas said.
RANT: Punter Jake Schum was hitting the ball pretty well on his first three punts, averaging 50 yards gross and 45.5 net. Then, with the Packers pinned back on their own 19-yard line with 3:28 left in the game and protecting a 27-23 lead, he got off a 34-yard shank that should have set up the Jaguars at their own 47. Lucky for him, Ramsey was called for a holding penalty and the Jags had to start at their own 37.
RANT: Twice the offense was inside the 10-yard line in the second half and couldn’t score because of poor communication. On the first drive of the third quarter, the Packers faced a third and goal at the 7. Rodgers said there was a misunderstanding with how the play was going to be blocked and so pressure forced him to get rid of the ball to Randall Cobb in the flat, where he was tackled for no gain. Then, on third and goal at the 2, half the team thought the play call was a pass and half thought it was a run. James Starks was dropped for no gain.
DID YOU NOTICE?
» Linebacker Julius Peppers didn’t play much. He was used in the dime package as an outside rusher and had his hand down as a defensive tackle a few times, but he was pretty much a forgotten man.
» Injuries to CB Sam Shields (possible concussion) and Gunter (cramps) caused coordinator Dom Capers to go with rookie Kentrell Brice at safety and Burnett at dime corner.
» Outside linebacker Datone Jones started at defensive end in the 3-4 base defense. Jones lost around 20 pounds so he could play linebacker, but Capers didn’t want to play rookie Dean Lowry a lot, so he put Jones in as defensive end.
» Receiver Jeff Janis played on special teams with a club on his hand. He said he used white tape instead of the custom black tape to keep it from soaking up too much sun.
» None of the players on either side kneeled or sat on the bench in protest during the national anthem. Several players took part in holding the giant flag spread across the field honoring 9-11 victims and survivors.
BY THE NUMBERS
6 – Times the Packers have failed to gain 300 yards in 11 season openers under coach Mike McCarthy.
80 – Percent the combined times the two teams were successful on fourth downs Sunday (4 for 5).
8:38 – Advantage in time of possession the Jaguars had (15:25 to 6:47) after taking a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.
2 – Consecutive games in which he has appeared that WR Davante Adams has scored a touchdown. He had one touchdown in 17 games prior to that.
10 – Plays of 10 or more yards the Jaguars gained, including six of 20 or more.